Federal, State Battle over Recreational Pot Averted
By Andrew Ramonas | November 3, 2010 1:32 am

A controversial ballot initiative that would have made California the first state to legalize recreational marijuana will not pass, CNN projected early Wednesday morning, averting a major battle between federal and state officials.

With 20 percent of precincts reporting, Proposition 19 is poised to fail with 56 percent of voters against the measure that would have permitted the possession, sale and distribution of pot in the state. Attorney General Eric Holder and every former Drug Enforcement Administration chief came out against the measure.

Holder said in October that the possible legalization of marijuana would not stop the federal prosecution of individuals who possess or distribute the drug.

The Attorney General wrote in an Oct. 13 letter to former DEA administrators that the Justice Department is considering “all available legal and policy options” if Proposition 19 became state law. He said the approval of the measure “would significantly undermine” efforts to keep communities safe.

Voters in South Dakota, Arizona and Oregon on Tuesday also considered marijuana initiatives.

With 98 percent of precincts reporting, the South Dakota initiative that would have legalized medicinal pot did not pass with 64 percent of voters opposing the measure, according to CNN.

Projected results on the Arizona and Oregon measures were not immediately available.

With 72 percent of precincts reporting, voters are equally divided on the Arizona measure that would sanction medical marijuana, according to CNN. The Oregon measure that would allow state-licensed dispensaries to distribute already legal medical marijuana in the state will likely fall short, according to the Associated Press. But the ultimate fate of the Oregon initiative is uncertain.

D.C. and 14 states already allow the use of the drug for medicinal purposes.

Holder said last year that the prosecution of seriously ill people who smoke pot in states where medicinal use is legal is not a top priority.

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